René-Xavier PRINET (Vitry-le-François, 1861 – Bourbonne-les-Bains, 1946) The Stroll

The Stroll

30 x 43 cm. (111316 x 16 1516 in.)

Charcoal, stump, and white chalk on blue-grey paper.

• C. GENDRE, Prinet, Peintre du temps retrouvé, Paris: Somogy, 2018.
R.X. Prinet, exh. cat. Belfort, Museum of Art and History, Vesoul: Georges Garret Museum; Paris: Bourdelle Museum; Belfort: Museum of Art and History, 1986.
• Jacques-Emile BLANCHE, Les arts plastiques: La Troisième République, de 1870 à nos jours, Paris: Impr. Nouvelle, 1931, p. 189.

Originally from a family of magistrates in Franche-Comté, René-Xavier Prinet was trained at the Julian Academy before entering the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1880 in Jean-Leon Gerome’s studio at the height of Gerome’s career. Five years later, Prinet presented his first canvas, a Child Jesus, to the Salon of French Artists. In 1890, he joined the National Society of Fine Arts, where he exhibited until 1922. The following year, he co-founded the Salon des Tuileries with Besnard, Bourdelle, Le Sidaner, and Aman-Jean. In 1900, Prinet additionally participated in the creation of the New Society of painters and sculptors which exhibited in the Georges Petit Gallery under the aegis of Rodin and Albert Besnard. There he found emulation and agreement with its artistic orientation and presented his works until 1916.

Prinet was a sociable man who multiplied his artistic and amicable relationships. He was associated with the painters of the Black Band, Lucien Simon, René Menard, Anrez Dauchez and Charles Cottet. Georges Desvallières counted among his closest friends and was welcomed with his family in the summer at “Double Six,” the villa which the Prinet couple owned at Cabourg.

The painter’s talent was combined with a marked taste for teaching. In 1904, he created the Academy of the Grand Thatched Roof Cottage (la Grande Chaumière) at Montparnasse with Antoine Bourdelle and Lucien Simon. He was appreciated by his students for the attention he gave to them while respecting their personalities. He participated during this same period in the creation of the first studio at the Ecole des Beaux Arts which was for women and which he directed. The artist was also the author of an Initiation to Painting (Paris: R. Ducher, 1935) and an Initiation to Drawing (Paris: R. Ducher, 1940).

“A very confident draughtsman, successor to Fantin-Latour in a certain genre of intimate family portraits, he represents what one calls “the French measure,” wrote Jacques-Emile Blanche about Prinet. Gifted with solid graphic mastery, the painter conveyed bourgeois daily life in the Belle Epoque through intimate harmonious interior scenes. Cabourg inspired his luminous paintings where promenades, bathers, riders, and children’s games provided images of the same high society lifestyle that was being described during the same period by his neighbor, Marcel Proust. The artist also illustrated several works; such as Maman Colibiri ou l’enchantement (Mama Colibiri or the Enchantment), a success by Henry Bataille which was adapted several times to the screen, and le Roman d’un Spahi (The Novel of a Spahi) by Pierre Loti.

Our drawing depicts a scene of an urban stroll structured according to an original perception of the setting with audacious centering. Seen from the back and from slightly above, a trio of well-dressed figures occupy a large part of the page. In front of them, a young woman sheltered under an umbrella partially turns. In the upper part, sketched at the vanishing point of this tight perspective, a man is descending from a cab. Through its immersive composition and instantaneous feeling, this drawing could be preparation for an illustration of a literary work. It is reminiscent, for example, of The Man in Gallant Company (Artcurial Sale, October 10th, 2011, no. 154), a preparatory study for the novel by René Boylesve, La jeune fille bien élevée (The Well Brought-Up Young Girl).

The artist draws with a sure line, starkly and clearly. The dark black of the charcoal, sometimes stumped, contrasts with the white chalk which floods the street with light. The decor laid out in a few lines disappears before the figures. Although the faces are barely shown, Prinet nonetheless succeeds in creating a surprisingly expressive scene tinged with a feeling of suspense. This taste for people seen from the back can be observed several times in his work, as in L’heure du bain (Time for a Bath) or La mer au pied de la digue (The sea at the foot of the pier) (oil on wood, private collection, see C. Gendres, no. 91-92).

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